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Global COVID-19 death toll surpasses three million

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FILE - In this April 13, 2021, file photo, the remains of a woman who died from complications related to COVID-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers.
FILE - In this April 13, 2021, file photo, the remains of a woman who died from complications related to COVID-19 are placed into a niche by cemetery workers.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File
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The global death toll due to COVID-19 has now passed three million, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Countries in the European Union and Economic Area account for at least 645,412 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The US is the country with the highest number of reported deaths due to COVID-19 with more than a half a million. The country is followed by Brazil, Mexico and India.

The United Kingdom, Italy and France have all recorded more than 100,000 deaths due to the virus.

But the death toll is likely much higher than the official counts due to early testing problems and underreporting at the beginning of the crisis. The virus first emerged in December 2019.

The stark global death toll comes at a time that the epidemic is worsening in several countries amid the emergence of new and more transmissible variants.

India recently reported more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases in just 24 hours.

Several European countries have been struggling to contain infections as the variant first detected in the UK spreads rapidly.

Global infections approaching highest level since the beginning of the pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday that the trajectory of the pandemic was growing.

"Globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during the pandemic."

There are more than 140 million cases of the virus worldwide.

European region still faces high hospitalisations

WHO's Europe region said on Thursday that the region, which includes more than 50 countries on the continent and in central Asia, recently reached at least one million deaths.

The European branch of the international health organisation warned that the situation in the region was "serious" with 1.6 million new cases are reported every week.

Hospitalisations remain high across the region even as transmission has slowed in some countries, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge said.

While deaths in people over the age of 80 have fallen due to the high uptake of vaccines in that age group, once again, Kluge called for countries to use public health measures to drive down virus infections.